LAST SEEN, a powerful world-first project by seeing artists and composers of memories of vision impaired Australians to open in Brisbane on April 18, 2023
Eyesight is one of life’s treasures that is taken for granted. But how much would you value the last thing you saw, if you started to lose your sight? Could you describe one of your last scenes to an artist and a composer, to recreate it?
In the most emotional exhibition and performance to be experienced in 2023, 10 vision impaired Australians have done just that – shared their most cherished memory before their sight deteriorated – for the 2023 Last Seen exhibition, supporting the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation (QEIF) to open in April. This extraordinary multi-sensory exhibition and performance, presented by Griffith University, sees awarded artists and acclaimed composers unite with Australians including decorated veteran Michael Lyddiard, Paralympian Katie Kelly PLY OAM, pianist Jane Britt, UN panellist Santiago Velasquez and 14-year-old Oliver Fanshawe to shine light on preventable eye-related disease (see Stories & Artists).
In the only known project of its kind in the world, their work will form an art exhibition and performance where visitors can not only immerse in the visual art, but also in sounds and music composed to bring the scenes to life.
THIS MORNING three paintings were unveiled:
ARTWORK TITLE: FAITH
Katie Kelly OAM PLY is one of Australia’s most distinguished, gold medalling Para-triathletes. Born with profound hearing loss, specialists did not diagnose her full condition Usher Syndrome until, at age 22, she started to lose her sight. Her last seen memory is the Merewether Baths in Newcastle.
The Artist – Tracie Eaton is an internationally renowned artist based on the Gold Coast. She’s recognised by the Global Art Agency as one of the ‘Leading & Investable Contemporary Artists’ worldwide and had an exclusive 3-year commission to create artwork for the Oscars, with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper and Tom Hanks now owning her art.
ARTWORK TITLE: MOUNTAINS IN THE SUN
Lorin Nicholson OAM is a highly regarded international motivational speaker; he’s also legally blind as a result of a genetic eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa which began when he was 4. He has an Order of Australia Medal, is an Australian of the Year nominee, a Queensland service award recipient and was Baton bearer for the 2018 Queens Baton Relay.
The Artist – Robert Brownhall is a famed realist painter, with a unique, quirky style and a birds-eye view of scenes, characterised by a strong connection to place.
ARTWORK TITLE: OLIVER’S VIEW
14 year old Oliver Fanshawe is the youngest person in Australia to receive a Seeing Eye Dog, Sadie. He was diagnosed with the eye condition Peters Anomaly at just nine days old. A keen athlete – he toured India as a batter with the Australian squad at the 2022 T20 Blind Cricket World Cup and is also the national junior champion for blind tennis. His last memorable image is of the Grand Canyon.
The Artist – Gary Myer’s art is immediately identifiable in Australia, with a deep connection to the outback landscape. He’s held over 45 solo exhibitions and is shown in galleries across the country.
QEIF CEO Mark Radford says, “Our participants have compelling stories, with a poignancy that will resonate with us all. They make us stop and think what our last, most memorable vision of this world might be and how different it would be for us all without our sight. The stories are powerful and very humbling. From young Oliver, diagnosed at nine and the youngest recipient of a Seeing Eye Dog, to Santiago who at 25 is the CEO of two companies developing technology to improve accessibility of public transport for people with disability. How many of us would be able to cope with those layers of complexity in every-day life?”
The exhibition features work by awarded Australian artists including Robert Brownhall, Rick Everingham, Dylan Jones, Tracie Eaton, Ky, Hart and Naomi White.
The concert, presented by the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, debuts original and inspirational musical works from acclaimed composers Dr Ralph Hultgren AM and Paul Jarman, Grammy-nominated arranger, Tim Davies and blind pianist Dr Jeff Usher, performed by the Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and Choir with Voices of Biralee. Selected art pieces will also be sold in a public, online auction at lastseen.com.au.
Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the Queensland Government supported Last Seen with funding of $33,112 through the Queensland Arts Showcase Program.
“This world-first creative showcase is an excellent example of how arts can play a key role in supporting important social and health-led outcomes,” Minister Enoch said. “Last Seen promises to be an inclusive and memorable arts experience featuring talented Queensland artists and sharing impactful stories.”
In Australia, over 13 million people have one or more chronic eye conditions with close to 500,000 living with a vision-impairment or blindness. Common eye conditions that cause vision loss include cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Importantly, around 90% of all blindness and vision impairment is preventable or treatable if detected early.
“Our purpose is to save sight. Communicating this through storytelling enables our story, and that of those living with a vision impairment, to be heard and seen. Thanks to the support of Griffith University, the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, the Brisbane City Council and other partners, guests can see, hear and feel captivating memories through tactile art, short films, music, immersive soundscapes and a voice-activated guide,” said QEIF CEO Mark Radford. “It’s a project Griffith University is pleased to partner on, pioneering new ways for the visually impaired to experience and access the arts. Bringing together our Griffith University Art Museum, Queensland College of Art, Queensland Conservatorium and Griffith Film School, this partnership is a commitment to creating positive, meaningful change in our community,” said Griffith University Pro Vice Chancellor (Arts Education and Law), Professor Scott Harrison.
The project also involves collaborations with communications agency Publicis Worldwide and Zenith Media, Nine Queensland, Southern Cross Austereo, and voice-skill solution Talk Via.
The 2023 Last Seen celebration will run over two weeks in April. Griffith University will host the inclusive exhibition and concert in the University’s world-class facilities in South Brisbane. All venues and events are fully accessible for mobility, vision or hearing-impaired patrons.
2023 LAST SEEN
A poignant and inspiring creative showcase, pairing vision-impaired Australians with renowned artists and composers to depict their last, or most cherished, visual memory.
Last Seen run from 18 – 29 April at the Queensland College of Art Grey Street Gallery (226 Grey Street), 10am – 4pm; entry is free.
Tickets to the concert at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University on the 21st of April, can be purchased from lastseen.com.au. ON SALE TODAY.